Toyota Owners 400 – Post Race Report

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Race Central SAG

Hamlin Notches Top-Five Finish Under the Lights at Richmond Raceway.

Denny Hamlin battled his way to a third-place finish in Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway. Despite handling issues during the race’s first two segments, Hamlin capitalized on quick pit stops by the #11 FedEx Ground team in the final Stage to deliver his fourth consecutive top-five finish in his last four starts at his Virginia home track.

Hamlin started the 300-mile event from the outside lane in fourth and immediately felt something amiss with the handling of his #11 FedEx Ground Toyota. He struggled to maintain his track position, and he slipped back to 14th as the first 100-lap Stage ran caution free.

The #11 FedEx team used the first Stage break to perform major adjustments on the #11 Toyota including multiple rounds of wedge and a drastic air pressure adjustment, and Hamlin felt a slight improvement overall. After restarting 14th, he climbed his way to eighth, but the tight-handling conditions persisted, and he was forced to settle for 11th at the end of the second caution-free Stage.

The final 200-lap Stage proved to be another long green-flag segment. After making a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 276, he entered the field’s top 10 and worked diligently to chase the leaders up ahead. Hamlin capitalized on long-green flag runs to pick off his competitors one by one, and by lap 328, he was scored in fifth.

In the race’s final 50 laps, four separate cautions appeared giving Hamlin additional opportunities to pit. Quick work on pit road by the #11 FedEx crew earned Hamlin three spots, and he lined up second alongside teammate Kyle Busch for the restart with 25 laps to go.

He maintained that position until the yellow flag waved a final time with only three laps remaining, sending the 300-mile event into overtime. Hamlin again restarted on the outside of the front row, but was challenged by Chase Elliott for second, ultimately forcing him to third when the checkered flag waved.

“Our #11 FedEx Ground Toyota was very strong during long (green-flag) runs, and we definitely battled back to the front tonight,” said Hamlin, a three-time Winner at Richmond Raceway. “In the end, my team put me in a great position for the final restart, but starting on the outside row and the short run at the end of the race is what ultimately got us. Just ran out of time to get it done, but still a successful weekend overall.”

Following his third-place finish at Richmond, Hamlin gained two spots in the overall NASCAR standings, moving into sixth place. The Series returns to action next Sunday, April 29, at Talladega Superspeedway.